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Abstractions blog

Abstractions blog

Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory

For decades, researchers have commonly assumed that higher oxygen levels led to the sudden diversification of animal life 540 million years ago. But one iconoclast argues the opposite: that new animal behaviors raised oxygen levels and remade the environment.

520px photo of Robert Langlands
Abstractions blog

Robert Langlands, Mathematical Visionary, Wins the Abel Prize

Generations of researchers have pursued his “Langlands program,” which seeks to create a grand unified theory of mathematics.

Photo of Stephen Hawking in 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey.
Abstractions blog

Why Stephen Hawking’s Black Hole Puzzle Keeps Puzzling

The renowned British physicist, who died at 76, left behind a riddle that could eventually lead his successors to the theory of quantum gravity.

Photograph of Albert Einstein in his office at the University of Berlin, published in the USA in 1920.
Abstractions blog

How Einstein Lost His Bearings, and With Them, General Relativity

By 1913, Albert Einstein had nearly completed general relativity. But a simple mistake set him on a tortured, two-year reconsideration of his theory. Today, mathematicians still grapple with the issues he confronted.

Illustration of a bowl of dark energy on a weighing scale
Abstractions blog

Why the Tiny Weight of Empty Space Is Such a Huge Mystery

The amount of energy infusing empty space seems too small to explain without a multiverse. But physicists have at least one alternative left to explore.

Lede photo of a giant virus under a microscope
Abstractions blog

New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life

A newfound pair of giant viruses have massive genomes and the most complete resources for building proteins ever seen in the viral world. They have refreshed the debate about the origins of these cellular parasites.

520px photo of army ants forming a bridge
Abstractions blog

The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges

Even with no one in charge, army ants work collectively to build bridges out of their bodies. New research reveals the simple rules that lead to such complex group behavior.

520px photo of phytoplankton
Abstractions blog

Evolution Saves Species From ‘Kill the Winner’ Disasters

Modelers find evidence that a combination of competition, predation and evolution will push ecosystems toward species diversity anywhere in the universe.

520px photo of lit neurons
Abstractions blog

With Strategic Zaps to the Brain, Scientists Boost Memory

Stimulating part of the cortex as needed during learning tasks improves later recall. The finding reveals more about the brain’s memory network and points toward possible therapies.